3D printers are the tool of choice for all the hackerspaces we’ve been to, and laser cutters take a close second. There’s another class of plastic manipulating machines that doesn’t get enough credit with the hackerspace crowd – the vacuum thermoformer. Surprisingly, there haven’t been many – if any – vacuum formers on Kickstarter. Until now, that is.
[Ben] and [Calvin] are the guys behind the MOFO, and built their machine around ease of use and reliability. After a few prototypes, they settled on their design of aluminum extrusion for the frame, a ceramic heating element for the heater, and an off-the-shelf PID controller for the electronics.
The MOFO has so far been tested with polycarbonate, acrylic, PETG and styrene with good results. The Kickstarter has reward levels of $500 for a 12″x12″ work area, and $1000 for a 24″x24″ work area. That’s not too bad, and building your own similar thermoformer would probably cost just as much. Just the thing if you need to print out a few dozen sets of storm trooper armor.
Yep, we have a Sci-Fi contest on our hands, with a week to go until entries are due. There are amazing prizes for the best Sci-Fi build, but in the spirit of the Internet, a few teams have elected to put together a science nonfiction project. We won’t hold that against them, because these builds are really, really cool.
Rockin’ bogie, man
First up in the ‘real life science fiction’ category is an adorable little rocker bogie robot designed and built by a team at MADspace, the Eindhoven Hackerspace.
A rocker bogie suspension is rather unique in that it can be used to drive over obstacles twice the size of the wheels, has a zero turning radius, and is found on every rover that has ever gone to Mars. The suspension system has articulated rockers on each side of the chassis , with pivoting wheels at each of the four corners of the robot. While this type of suspension can’t go very fast, it can go just about anywhere.
The team loaded up their bot with a Raspberry Pi, a pair of webcams, 20Ah of batteries, gyro, and a web interface. The suspension works beautifully, and most of the parts are 3D printable. Very cool. There’s a pair of videos with this bot in action below.
Spider bot. Just add two more legs.
Continuing on with the science nonfiction theme of this post is a cute little hexapod walker reminiscent of designs that have been proposed to visit the moon and asteroids.
This is a rather unique hexapod, controlled entirely with 12 PWM channels on an ATMega1284. Although each leg only has two degrees of freedom (the software has support for 3 DOF, though) the movement is surprisingly smooth. It’s an inexpensive build, too, with 5 gram servos providing all the power to the legs. Video below.
[kgsws] is working on a small project that requires some audio and a display of some sort. While this project can be easily completed with a bigish microcontroller or ARM board, he’s taking a much simpler route: the entire project is built around a cheap router module, giving this project amazing expandability for a very meager price.
The router module in question is the HLK-RM04 from Hi-Link, commonly found via the usual Chinese resellers for about $25. On board this module is a UART, Ethernet, and a WiFi adapter along with a few GPIO pins for interfacing with the outside world.
[kgsws] is using the native SPI pins on this module to control the clock and data lines for the tiny LCD, with a GPIO pin toggling the chip select. I2S audio is also implemented, decoded with an 8-bit DAC, the MCP4801.
It’s an extremely inexpensive solution for putting audio and video in a project, and since this board has Ethernet, WiFi, and a few more GPIO pins, it’s can do much more than whatever [kgsws] is planning next.
As technology continues to advance, make-believe props and technology from movies are coming closer and closer to reality. [Patrick Priebe] has managed to put together a working Spiderman Webshooter with the help of electromagnets!
He’s built a tiny coil gun that puts out 100 Joules of energy using a 350V capacitor bank, which straps cleanly to his wrist over top of a Spiderman costume glove. It makes the classic high-pitched hum as it charges, and launches a small barbed brass arrow capable of skewering Styrofoam.
He didn’t stop there though! He’s created a handy little winch using a small high-powered brushless motor with an ESC. A weighted disk acts as a flywheel to increase the pulling power of the fishing line, and he’s built it on a pivot so when you launch it, the fishing line just slips off the end without resistance. To engage, you flip it back perpendicular to the line and turn on the motor.
The Raspberry Pi has been around for a while now, and while many boards that hope to take the Pi’s place at the top of the single board ARM Linux food chain, not one has yet succeeded. Finally, there may be a true contender to the throne. It’s called the HummingBoard, and packs a surprising amount of power and connectivity into the same size and shape as the venerable Raspberry Pi.
The HummingBoard uses a Freescale i.MX6 quad core processor running at 1GHz with a Vivante GC2000 GPU. There’s 2GB of RAM, microSD card slot, mSATA connector, Gigabit Ethernet, a BCM4329 WiFi and Bluetooth module, a real-time clock, and IR receiver. There’s also all the usual Raspberry Pi flair, with a 26 pin GPIO connector, CSI camera connector, DSI LCD connector, stereo out, as well as the usual HDMI and analog video.
The company behind the HummingBoard, SolidRun, hasn’t put a retail price on the board, nor have they set a launch date. You can, however, enter a contest to win a HummingBoard with the deadline this Friday. Winners will be announced in early May, so maybe the HummingBoard will be officially launched sometime around then.
It’s an amazing board with more than enough power to rival the extremely powerful BeagleBone Black, with the added bonus of being compatible with so many of those Raspberry Pi accessories we all love dearly.
What’s a Sci-Fi contest without entries from the longest running sci-fi TV show, Doctor Who?
Sonic Screwdriver Door Lock
Ah yes, the iconic Sonic Screwdriver, able to get the Doctor out of almost any jam — with style.
Started this project over a year ago, [Daniel] figured a Sci-Fi contest was a good enough excuse to get around to finishing it.
Using a Raspberry Pi and a microphone, the lock unlocks when the python script detects a sound signature that matches previously recorded Sonic Screwdriver’s hums — meaning friends with novelty Sonic Screwdrivers can join in the fun too — if he lets them.
When the correct sound sample FFT is detected, the door is unlocked using a transistor that is connected to an electronic door strike. When completed you’ll be able to show off your true Whovian nature, and impress your friends!
Head Tracking Augmented Reality Police Box
Inspired by the augmented reality TARDIS that is actually bigger on the inside, [Mike] and his wife are working on creating one that doesn’t need a smart phone to enjoy.
Instead it uses head tracking and an LCD inside the door to create the illusion of a cavernous inside! A head tracking Tardis!
A webcam tracks your head’s position, which then changes the perspective of the interior of the TARDIS on the LCD — we’re getting giddy just thinking about it!
EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE!!!
While there isn’t too much information on this project, [th3c4rd] is planning on creating a Doctor Who Voice Modulator which will allow you to sound like your favorite villains with the press of a button!
Using a ring modulator for the effect, [th3c4rd] plans on making his own, since commercial ones will run you upwards of $200!
He’s still looking for a team-mate for the project so if you’re interested in helping out, get in touch!
Still haven’t entered the contest? Don’t worry — there’s still time for you to put an awesome Sci-Fi project together to win some crazy cool prizes!